Irishman in MI5 weapons sting gets 12 years

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A BROTHER of one of the men blamed for the Omagh bomb atrocity has been jailed for 12 years for trying to buy weapons and explosives in Lithuania.

Irishman Michael Campbell was arrested in an undercover operation in the Baltic state of Lithuania after handing over cash to buy a sniper rifle, detonators and timers for the Real IRA.

The 39-year-old was convicted by Judge Arunas Kisielus after a two-year trial in the city of Vilnius.

He was arrested in January 2008 following the operation involving the British, Irish and Lithuanian intelligence agencies, which believe the explosives would have been used to mount a terror campaign in Northern Ireland and on the British mainland.

Prosecutors are still seeking the extradition of his brother Liam Campbell and Brendan McGuigan from the Irish Republic.

Liam Campbell is seeking to go before the Supreme Court in London to challenge a civil court ruling which held him liable for the 1998 Omagh bomb, which killed 29 people including a woman pregnant with twins.

Campbell was arrested after a six-year sting orchestrated by MI5.

Video footage and intercepted communications showed he paid 6,000 euros (£5,200) for high-grade explosives, grenade launchers, detonators, AK-47s and a special assassin’s rifle, to Lithuanian agents posing as arms dealers.

He was charged with supporting the splinter group by attempting to smuggle firearms, ammunition, and explosive devices from Lithuania to Ireland.

Campbell – from the Upper Faughart area near Dundalk, Co Louth in the Irish Republic, close to the border with Northern Ireland – maintained his innocence and claimed he was the victim of entrapment.

Irmantas Mikelionis, chief prosecutor of the Organised Crime and Corruption Investigations Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office, said the explosives could have been used for bombing in London.

“If we failed to stop Mr Campbell, we would put in danger the lives of innocent people,” he said.

Mr Mikelionis warned undercover officers risked their own lives during the sting.

“The dangers of being disclosed, the danger of being accused for co-operation with secret services were hanging in the air each time they contacted the members of the terrorist group,” he said.

“We are happy we had no painful consequences.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said Campbell’s conviction was another excellent example of what can come from the high levels of co-operation between countries across Europe and beyond in combating terrorism.

“I am very pleased with this verdict and would like to congratulate the Security Service and the Lithuanian authorities who have collected the evidence that the Court in Lithuania has clearly found to be both convincing and compelling,” he said.